Archive for February, 2011

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Apologetics: When Monday school Kills Sunday school

February 19, 2011

I love apologetics. The word apologetic doesn’t mean ‘sorry’. It comes from a Greek word that means, ‘to speak in defense of’. The goal of Christian apologetics is to speak in defense of Christian doctrine without being defensive.

Some Christians don’t like apologetics. Aren’t we supposed to have simple faith? Why put a strong emphasis on reason, argumentation and evidence? ‘The Bible said it, I believe it, don’t need to prove it’.

Fair enough. But don’t be surprised if that is not enough for your children when they ask you, ‘If God is good, why is there evil and suffering’?, ‘How do I know the Bible is not just made up’? ‘How do I know if Jesus really rose from the dead, or even existed’? ‘Why are there so many religions’?

Your son and daughter might want a little more than, ‘the Bible said it, that settles it’. Scripture commands us to be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1st Peter 3:15).

‘The Bible says it, that settles it’. We must do apologetics. We must give a reason, or a well thought out answer, for the hope we have within us.

My friend Jon likes to point out that everyone is an apologist at some point. We will all have to address the issue of evil and suffering eventually. Our belief in the Bible will be challenged sooner or later. However we respond, in that moment we are an apologist for the Christian faith.

The only question is, ‘are we a good apologist or a bad apologist’?

Some people retort, ‘the best apologetic for the Christian faith is not philosophical argumentation, historical evidence or scientific facts. A changed life is the best apologetic’.

Should following Jesus change your life? Of, course it will. How we live our lives matter. We are urged in scripture to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

But the best apologetic for Christianity is not a changed life. As soon as someone says, ‘Jesus changed my life’, a skeptic can respond, ‘well, here is my Muslim friend. Following the Koran has changed her life. In fact, my mediative practices have drastically improved my state of mind. Jesus has changed your life. Buddhist meditation has changed mine’.

A changed life doesn’t get you passed religious pluralism. You are left in a quagmire of competing, contradictory religious claims about reality.

A changed life is the beginning of apologetics. A person in your life notices something different about you. You seem to have more peace, more joy; certain habits that you used to engage in have dropped off. Your friend is intrigued by the new you.

1st Peter 3:16 says, ‘give a reason for the hope that is within you’. This verse assumes that people are asking the reason for the hope that is within you. A changed life is the beginning of apologetics.

The only question is, ‘are we good apologists or bad apologists’?

There is an apologetics conference happening March 4 and 5th at the Alliance church. Go to http://www.apologeticscanadaconference.ca to register.

Next blog post I will discuss apologetics in its proper place and ‘How to be wrong in the right way and right in the wrong way’.

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Reversed Thunder: The 7 churches…

February 8, 2011

We have been journeying slowly through the last book of the Bible. Revelation is filled with weird and wild imagery and symbolism. One image in particular has stuck with me.

Jesus in the middle of the lamp stands. We are told by the inspired author that the lamp stands symbolize the 7 churches addressed in chapters 2 and 3. Jesus is in the midst of his churches. He is there and he is not silent. He speaks these powerful words,

“Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I was dead and now I am alive for ever more and I hold the keys of death and hades”. Do not be afraid. I am alive. The tomb is empty. I am in the midst of my church. ‘Do not be afraid’.

I have read a lot of books on church ministry. A lot. Some were good and some were bad. Many of them start off by describing a crisis. The church in the west is declining! There is a mass exodus of young people departing from the faith of their parents! The church is in Crisis!

The one message that comes through loud and clear is, ‘be afraid’. The faith is crumbling. The gates of hell are prevailing but don’t worry, this book offers the solution.

Not surprisingly, this is how Christian authors are taught to write. You have to start off with a crisis, a pressing need, an urgent issue that needs a remedy. You then present your book as the solution to the problem. I co-wrote a book just like that. It comes out in March.

Oh well.

A cynical mind might say it is fear mongering for the sake of making a profit. I don’t know if I would say that but I like planting thoughts without laying claim to them.

Some of the issues raised in these books are important. Some of the statistics regarding the church in the west reflect a stark reality. But in the midst of it all I’ve begun to see Jesus stubbornly insisting, ‘Do not Fear’. I have all things in my hand. I will build my church. The church in John’s day was in a precarious position. Did the church die out? No, the church grew like wild fire throughout the Roman Empire. We are witnessing a similar pattern across the globe.

When I look at the church from a historical and global perspective I begin to realize, ‘you’re right Jesus, there is no need to fear’. I find my hope, my courage, my conviction and my commitment to the cause of Christ deepening and growing.

‘Do not be afraid’. ‘Do not fear Calvary’. Have faith. I am alive. I am in your midst. I am working all things out for my Father’s glory and the good of those who belong to me.

There is no reason to fear but there is a reason to reflect and repent. The letters to the 7 churches remind us of that. The church does get of track. Jesus warns us that our lamp stand can be removed. May that never happen in the Western Church. May we be doctrinally sound, morally pure, and socially concerned. May our love for Christ stay central, may we never be luke-warm and loving it, may we ……you can finish the sentence yourself.